Of all the Christian T-shirts , the Bible Emergency Numbers is easily the most popular. You can see why. It lists 25 important Bible verses for 25 different situation you might face. Each verse can help guide you through a tough time, remind you to be faithful, or give you the lift you need to get through the day. In this post, we’ll dive into the first of those Bible emergency numbers to help you understand how that particular passage can help. Today we’re looking at the book of the Bible that it suggests for the situation, “When your faith needs stirring.”
What does that mean? While most of the Bible Emergency Numbers give us a clear situation, this one gives us a metaphor. You could use stir in a couple ways. You could stir a soup or a can of paint. That’s all about mixing things. It takes unincorporated items and mixes them into one, evenly distributed whole.
Another way to use stir is for something to be in motion. Fall leaves can stir when the wind blows them along the ground. A cat can stir when it drowsily stretches on your bed. Water stirs when a fish flips its tail.
Which one is it? The Book of Hebrews gives us a clue. The author of Hebrews wants to encourage his audience to be faithful Christians. He especially exhorts them to be faithful despite persecution. In Hebrews 10, we see hints of their situation.
“How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?” Hebrews 10:29
There is temptation to leave behind Christ, to trample him underfoot, to profane the blood of the covenant. How? Hebrews tells us again:
“But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.” Hebrews 10:32-33
When we suffer for Christ, we are tempted to deny him, to turn our back on our savior to stay safe. The Hebrews, probably converts from Judaism, could have turned back to their old religion, and the Romans would have left them alone.
When we’re hurt for Jesus, we need to be stirred up to action, to get some backbone, to be encouraged in faith. Even the most faithful struggle when in pain, especially pain that can be so easily escaped. All we’d need to do is turn from Christ and join in with the world. We need our faith stirred up by Christ. Hebrews speaks to us to stir our faith into action in strength as he says in Hebrews 10:39, “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
Hebrews 11 illustrates the power of faith in spite of persecution. The author tells stories we all know, of the patriarchs and heroes of the Old Testament.
None of these heroes did great things by their own strength or character. Noah was not the first meteorologist. He heard God’s voice and followed him. Abraham was not the first great explorer. He listened to God’s promised and believed. He wasn’t even righteous or wise. At the first sign of trouble, Abraham pretends that his wife is his sister and marries her off to someone else!
No. They trust that God would do what he says. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Faith, itself a divine gift, believed that God would stick to his promises.
The patriarchs weren’t the only ones who conquered by faith. There are many Christians who have suffered long ago and many who are suffering today. All Saints Day, November 1st, celebrates the many martyrs who died by for the faith through Roman persecution, Islamic conquest in the Middle East, Communist totalitarianism, and tyranny.
By faith, the apostles who faced torture and death by faith, and they received the eternal righteousness that God promises all who believe. By faith Ignatius walked gladly to the arena to be devoured by wild beasts, because he know that God would raise his broken body on the last day.
By faith, many of the Bishops at the council of Nicea had withstood torture during the persecution under Diocletian. Paul of Neo-Caesarea lost the use of his hands, and Paphutius of Egypt had his eye plucked out and his hamstring cut. The gift of faith kept them strong and will cause them to receive whole bodies when Christ returns.
By faith, Chinese Christians will withstand their communist government’s new approach to Christianity. China has a new policy for Christianity . They want to make it more “Chinese” or “Sinicisation.” They are going to include ideas from socialism and Confucianism in the Old Testament and rewrite commentaries on the New Testament to make Socialism seem divine.
They will be required to place pictures of Chairman Mao and Xi Jinping next to crosses. They will force Christians to sing communist songs and propaganda songs in worship.
We tell their stories, because they can help us stay strong when our hearts are weak. And they do get weak. We’d all love to think that we’re strong all the time. We’d like to think that we’re action heroes racing through our own incredible story. We fight the bad guys. We defeat the enemy. We stay strong through every problem.
But that’s not real, at least no more real than any movie is. There are no action heroes. None of us is always strong. There’s only one real hero, Jesus himself. Even when he wept over his friend, Lazarus’ death, Jesus stayed true. When his friends abandoned him, and his followers rejected him, Jesus was totally faithful. He was strong, even when he cried out to God at his last moments. He stayed true.
That’s why we need to hear the stories of people who have conquered in faith. They stayed true, not by their own power, but by his. They faced rejection, death, and pain, and Jesus kept them strong. Their stories point us to his power to conquer even death.
What does it mean for faith to need stirring? Faith needs to be stirred when it’s weak. Faith needs to be stirred when it doubts. Faith needs to be stirred when it all seems pointless. That’s why Hebrews points us to this great cloud of witnesses, the patriarchs, prophets, and all the rest. Their faithfulness, by Christ’s power, encourages us to be faithful in hm, too.
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